Maeve Ginzberg can still remember the moment she downloaded Snapchat. It was high school. She did it because her best friend requested. Their long-standing streak would end when Maeve moved to college abroad and lost her cell phone service. Maeve, a 27-year-old copywriter living in New York now uses Snapchat very rarely. She only uses it to keep in touch with one friend and to follow a group Snap. Maeve says Snapchat has a sentimental appeal. She reflects on Snapchat’s unique ability to remind her of “stuff just feels like an relic in some way.”
It wasn’t always like this. Snapchat was launched in 2012 when we were using Vine and Musical.ly rather than TikTok. It wasn’t meant to be a platform for nostalgia. Snapchat was just another social media platform. People joined Snapchat because they liked it and their friends did too. We all want the opportunity to travel where the people are. Snapchat was a strong platform for the under-25 crowd in the mid-2010s. Snapchat was different from Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook where posts could live indefinitely. You had to be actively on Snapchat to see what was happening. Our fear of missing out was exacerbated by the urgency of snapping a quick picture or posting a 24-hour story. Celebrities such as Kylie Jenner and DJ Khaled made headlines and contributed to pop culture with their stories. Users refresh their screens over and over to keep up.
The app was unable to withstand the pressure of its own success. Snap tried to incorporate other age groups despite a limited market penetration. But Snap soon discovered that the things that attracted boomers were not good for zillennials. Snap suffered a series of poorly received redesigns that led to the platform’s decline in users.
Snapchat is still not in danger. According to the Pew Research Center in 2021, about 65% of 18-29 year-olds use Snapchat. These young men could not all be looking for their Tinder matches on other platforms. So, who are they?
Peter de Vreede, a 25 year-old man living in Omaha, NE and working in loan processing, first used Snapchat at the age of 19, at the request of his girlfriend. His Snapchat usage has declined over the years and he has only recently started to use it more often: “I usually use it when people around me use it and encourage me to.” He also noted that it has been easy to get back into Snapchat since it hasn’t changed that much in the past years. He said, “I do share it to new people I meet and I do post it onto my online dating profiles.”
Snapchat’s ability to quickly switch between different social media platforms makes it a great example of what happens when we don’t get too addicted and only engage (and then disengage) with them occasionally. Maybe that’s why I have never heard people speak passionately about Snapchat (or Twitter) in the same way they do about Instagram. Snapchat is a tool you can use when you want it. Snapchat is there to keep relationships alive. If those relationships end, you will either abandon it or move to another platform. It’s not an inferno, it’s simply another place to be online.
Megan, a 33 year-old teacher from Massachusetts, recalls downloading Snapchat in 2014. She downloaded it because a friend suggested she might like it. She pointed out that Snapchat has seen a lot of changes over the last seven years. “Filters, stories, and news have all changed,” she said. But the most significant change has been how frequently she uses it. “Before there was a group that would get multiple snaps per day, but now that is pretty rare. It’s mostly about maintaining individual snap streaks.” A streak she has had for more than 1,503 days. She said that she can’t recall the last time she shared her Snap information with anyone. “I use it mainly to keep in touch and connect with people I have known since I downloaded the app.”
Maeve also admitted that she would have abandoned Snapchat long ago if it wasn’t for the group chat. Late-night messages from journalists and nurses who work in the group Snapchat are a regular feature. One member maintains a taste-testing series. You will also receive regular updates about the cats and dogs. This sounds very much like a carefully curated TikTok account. Maeve said that she and her best friend have had a series over the years. They use daily selfies, video messaging to debrief bad dates or as an expedient for long, tedious texts.
Snapchat’s appeal lies in its simplicity. Stories disappear after 24 hours and messages vanish. You can still connect with people on at least three other platforms, even if Snapchat is closed. You don’t have to delete Snapchat if you decide to do so. Or do you? Snapchat is a great way to socialize online. You can follow and unfollow the same person, archive posts you love, and deactivate when you get fed up. These things require a lot and often involve complicated decisions. Snapchat profiles are free from such public relations and maintenance. Snapchat is a great way to save stress. Although it’s not a part of our online meta profiles, it only plays a small role in telling people who you are.